Kids and teens are major consumers in the United States. For example, kids under 14 years of age spend about $40 billion annually while teens spend about $159 billion. And that’s just the tip of what’s a very large consumer iceberg. Parents can help make a huge impact by simply trying to avoid consumerism, but kids and teens can also take the initiative and work to be better consumers.
With that in mind I thought I’d post some kid and teen-specific consumer tips:
Kids and teens can actually follow the same set of basic flowchart rules that I mentioned in how to afford the holidays. For example, before making a purchase kids and teens can ask themselves…
- Do I need it?
- Can I afford it.
- How badly do I want it?
- Will I use it?
- Is it recyclable or otherwise healthy for the planet?
Other ideas for kids and teens to consider:
Do you have an item like this already at home? If so, do you enjoy it a lot, or is it sitting on a shelf, slightly used. Be honest. If you buy many items and don’t use them, that’s a waste of resources and that, in turn is not healthy for the earth.
Is the purchase worth the cost? Is it worth the cost if you’re paying for it yourself vs. your parents paying for it? If you’re not paying for the item yourself, consider if you’d still want the item if you had to use chore or babysitting money to buy it. If you wouldn’t use your own cash for it, then it’s likely not a smart purchase.
Never buy an item right away. If you see something you think you might enjoy, walk away. Think about it for a week. If after a week, you still think you need the item, go pick it up.
How much stuff do you have already? If your bedroom is full of slightly used and unused items, maybe it’s time to really think about why you’re asking your parents for this stuff in the first place.
Avoid fads that fade. Here’s an example; no matter how many Lego blocks my son gets, they’re put to excellent use. He reuses them over and over. However, he also sometimes like fads, like Gogo’s. I think Gogo’s are lame because they’re all plastic plus have minimal replay value, so I refused to buy him any. He decided to buy some with his own money, and now they’re just sitting there, unused. He’s concerned now because he doesn’t use them, can’t recycle them and it was a waste of his money. Just because something is popular doesn’t mean you’ll like it.
Can you find an eco-friendly version? For example, as noted my son really wanted a Pillow Pet which is not eco-friendly. I looked around and found some better, greener pandas and Cedar has decided that one of those would be fine with him. Make sure you buy the greenest version of an item you can.
Is the item healthy? Some smart healthy items you may want to spend cash on include a skateboard, a bike, a fun class, a Frisbee, a musical instrument, a camera for taking nature photos and so on. Try to mix it up so that you’re not always buying passive activity items.
Extra eco-shopping tips for kids and teens:
- Look for natural fiber clothing and organic items.
- Shop at a thrift store.
- Get to know how greenwashing companies target you.
- Don’t buy animal fur items or fake fur items. Fur is sometimes used in toys and clothing. If you buy real fur you’re responsible for killing an animal – just for fur. Fake fur isn’t great either, as most fake furs are made from non-renewable oil-based fibers.
- Be careful when buying shells. It’s fun to visit a beach and find shells that have naturally washed up on the beach, but buying shells from a store might mean you’re getting shells that were intentionally stolen from the ocean and the animals who use them.
- When buying new music, consider used CDs or LPs or purchase digital music. You’ll get a better deal, more music for your buck, plus save some resources.
- If you buy a toy requiring batteries, be sure to pick up some renewable batteries and a battery charger as well. This way you won’t have to waste resources to charge your toys.
- Before your next shopping adventure you might want to consider going through the stuff you already have. Sort it, clean it, and offer it to a family or youth shelter. Or you could have a garage sale, which is a great way to recycle instead of toss items.
- When shopping be sure to carry a reusable bag or backpack. Reusable bags come in all sorts of cool designs for kids and teens nowadays.
Kids and teens can be really smart eco-minded consumers. All it takes is a little planning and some conscious caring about the earth.